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Health Sciences

Custom program developed for Health Science leaders

Health Sciences Leadership Series

A program designed to improve the leadership capabilities and communication skills of Health Sciences faculty members.

Visit the Faculty of Health Sciences website to register.

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Health Sciences faculty members spend years training for their roles as educators, researchers and scholars. In many cases, though, there aren'™t the same opportunities to develop specific skills required for their administrative and managerial duties.

The Office of Faculty Development in the Faculty of Health Sciences aims to change that by collaborating with the Human Resources Department on a new management development program. The Health Sciences Leadership Series will launch this September with the first cohort of 30 participants completing six full-day sessions throughout 2014-15.

"This program is modelled after one that myself and a number of other faculty had the opportunity to take several years ago," says Tony Sanfilippo, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education, Faculty of Health Sciences. "In retrospect, the content has proven to be highly relevant and practical. The Health Sciences Leadership Series will be invaluable to any faculty members charged with administrative responsibilities or curricular development."

Human Resources designed the program specifically for Health Sciences faculty members. The material will cover challenges, situations and conflicts they will encounter in their day-to-day work. Dr. Sanfilippo says participants will gain a deeper understanding of their leadership capabilities, expand their communication skills, enhance their project management skills, and improve their ability to build relationships both within and outside their department.

The Health Sciences Leadership Series will be invaluable to any faculty members charged with administrative responsibilities or curricular development.

Tony Sanfilippo, Associate Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences.

With the Health Sciences Leadership Series, Queen's Human Resources Department continues to expand its leadership development programming. The department has offered a similar program for non-academic managers since 2009.

"œWe are excited to partner with the Faculty of Health Sciences to extend this valuable leadership training to their faculty members," says Al Orth, Associate Vice-Principal, Human Resources. "We are hopeful that the positive outcomes of this series will result in opportunities to work with other faculties on similar programs in the future."

The series has the added benefit of meeting the accreditation criteria for two professional organizations. It is an accredited group learning activity for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The program also meets the accreditation criteria of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Online registration is now open with the first session slated to take place Sept. 16. More information is available on the Faculty of Health Sciences website or by contacting Shannon Hill, Learning Development Specialist, Human Resources, at ext. 74175.
 

Aging, long-term care, and COVID-19

Dean Jane Philpott and members of the Queen’s community discuss the lessons learned about senior care during the pandemic with the second installment of the Conversations Confronting COVID-19 series

Watch the discussion

Lessons learned during COVID-19

Queen’s had a record turnout as more than 800 viewers tuned in to last week’s Conversations Confronting COVID-19 virtual event on the topic of aging. Moderated by Dr. Jane Philpott, Dean of Health Sciences, the event brought together experts in healthcare, research, and policy-making to discuss lessons learned about Canada’s elderly population and long-term care during the coronavirus pandemic. The panel included Laura Tamblyn Watts, ArtSci’94, CEO of CanAge, Dr. John Puxty (Medicine), Dr. Catherine Donnelly (Rehabilitation Therapy), and Dr. Kevin Woo (Nursing and Rehabilitation Therapy).

While the event focused on the response to COVID-19, the participants brought unique research and policy perspectives to senior care issues and the challenges Ontario and Canada may face moving forward post-pandemic. The panelists, including Dr. Philpott, spoke from their experiences and specific expertise, having pivoted their research and attention to focus on COVID-19 related issues or joined the frontlines to deliver senior care during the crisis.

Major discussion topics included what the response to the pandemic has taught us about our emergency preparedness, our success rate in safeguarding vulnerable members of our society, and how COVID-19 will influence Canada’s long-term strategy for healthy aging. The panelists looked at diverse senior care models in Canada ranging from long-term care to retirement homes and aging at home or alternative non-institutional settings and their responses to COVID-19, along with guidance for those navigating these systems. In particular, they described the mental and physical effects of social isolation for both seniors and their family members and their current research to address this crucial issue.

In response to some of the 100+ questions posed by audience members, the experts reflected on the impact of COVID-19 within BIPOC communities and where policy and collaborative research are needed to support fair overall healthy aging for all Canadians. Throughout the conversation, the panelists also examined opportunities for a pan-Canadian approach to long-term care, integrating care and care teams where possible, investing in education and the workforce, and applying best practices from other provinces and countries for sector innovation.

Guidance and resources for senior care

Many viewers also asked insightful questions around policies, as well as shared personal experiences for guidance on matters such as supporting family caregivers. While the panelists could not respond to each question within the hour, they have provided a list of resources ranging from information about senior care programs and policy actions to ways for the community to get involved through the Queen’s Community Connections Project.

Additional Information

Conversations Confronting COVID-19

Queen’s University Relations and Advancement offices are currently planning additional events in the Conversations Confronting COVID-19 series for the fall. To learn more about upcoming alumni events, visit the Queen’s Alumni website, and for more information about how Queen’s researchers are combatting COVID-19 explore the Research@Queen’s website.

Tracking the pandemic in Ontario's ERs

Queen’s University researcher Steven Brooks receives $1.2 million in funding to build a provincial database to track COVID-19 patients.

Emergency departments are on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is a lack of high-quality clinical data to guide best practices and optimize outcomes. 

Queen’s University researcher Steven Brooks has been awarded $1.2 million through the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund for his project that will develop a provincial registry of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients in emergency departments across Ontario. 

“There is an urgent need for high-quality data from suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients managed in Ontario emergency departments to support better decisions, improve care, flatten the COVID-19 curve and support better preparedness for future pandemics,” says Dr. Brooks (Emergency Medicine, clinician-scientist Kingston Health Sciences Centre). 

Data to be collected includes details about each patient’s demographic information, health status, COVID-19 testing resultssymptoms and signs that prompted their emergency visit, testing and treatment in the emergency department, in-hospital treatment and course (e.g. whether they required life support and intensive care), as well as outcomes during their hospital visit (e.g. survival).  

The registry will support the development of clinical decision rules for patient screening, diagnostic studies (e.g. swabs and imaging), therapeutics (e.g. intubation) and disposition (e.g. admission to ICU, discharge home). 

The research team will also be following up with patients captured in the database by telephone at 30 days, 90 days, six months, and one year to measure survival and quality of life. 

In addition, the registry can potentially serve as the foundation for several other studies. For instance, Dr. Brooks is in preliminary talks with partners at Kingston Health Sciences Centre to plan a study that involves testing the blood of patients in the registry to understand how COVID-19 antibodies affect disease presentation and severity. He is also working with several provincial and national administrative data repositories (e.g. Canadian Institute for Health Information, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences) to ensure that de-identified data captured in the registry can later be linked with administrative health data to understand how COVID-19 might impact health services use. 

The Ontario study is a component of a larger national network – The Canadian COVID-19 Emergency Department Research Network – led by Corinne Hohl out of the University of British Columbia.  There are 50 emergency departments across Canada participating and the team is also reaching out to international emergency department networks to establish the possibility of collaboration. 

One of the objectives of our registry is to contribute to the global knowledge base on the problem,” says Dr. Brooks. 

For more about the funding, visit the website. 

Is DNA key to whether you get COVID-19?

Queen’s researcher leads Canadian arm of international project aiming to sequence the genomes of 100,000 COVID-19 patients to better understand their genes and the disease.

Artist's concept of DNA strands
New evidence may suggest more men get coronavirus than women has motivated an international hunt for which genes make people especially vulnerable or resistant to COVID-19. (Shutterstock)

The strength and health of one’s immune system is one key indicator of susceptibility to contracting pathogens, including the novel coronavirus. However, new evidence that may suggest more men get coronavirus than women has motivated an international hunt for which genes make people especially vulnerable or resistant to COVID-19.

Canada, in partnership with teams in the United Kingdom and the United States, hopes to contribute the fully decoded genomes of 10,000 COVID-19 patients to better understand the genes behind the disease – part of a global mission that’s aiming for 100,000 genomes. With support from the SEAMO (Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Organization), the Canadian arm of the project is being coordinated by David Maslove, Clinician Scientist with the Department of Medicine and Critical Care Program at Queen’s and intensive care doctor at Kingston Health Sciences Centre.

Dr. Maslove spoke to the Queen's Gazette about the potential links between DNA and coronavirus as well as the international project underway.

What is the suspected connection between DNA and coronavirus susceptibility?                                              

Previous studies have shown that susceptibility to infection may be, at least in part, genetically determined. For instance, large-scale, epidemiological studies show that likelihood of dying from an infection is at least five times more heritable than the likelihood of dying from cancer, even though we typically think of the latter, rather than the former, as a genetically determined condition.

The genes that control the immune system are some of the most diverse among humans, and lab studies have shown how different molecular characteristics influence the way in which people respond to infection. With respect to coronavirus in particular, early studies have identified some risk factors, such as age, hypertension, and diabetes, but these don’t appear to tell the whole story. Additional variability is seen in who gets a mild case, and who develops critical illness, with reason to suspect that some of that variability is determined by our genetics. 

Are there specific genes that make people more likely to be infected by coronavirus?

Early studies are beginning to shed some light on this, though the results remain preliminary. A European research group found associations between genes involved in determining blood type and the need for breathing support in COVID-19. Other groups have proposed that differences in the genetic regulation of ACE2 – a protein that the virus uses to gain entry into cells – may be associated with different outcomes for coronavirus patients. Others are looking to see if genetic differences in sex chromosomes (X and Y) may in part explain why early reports showed worse outcomes among males as compared to females. 

Drs. David Maslove and Michael Rauh
Drs. David Maslove and Michael Rauh have received funding from SEAMO to coordinate the Canadian arm of the GenOMICC study.

Are the reports that COVID-19 is more dangerous for men true?

Reports from some areas that have been hardest hit do suggest a higher mortality rate among men. Others are a little more equivocal. The reasons for these differences remain unclear. Genetics may play a role, since biological sex is genetically determined, though other factors may be important as well. 

If you can pinpoint the genes, will it lead to more treatment options?

This is our hope. Identifying specific genes means identifying the molecular pathways they influence. The hope is that these will yield important insights into how the coronavirus infects our cells, and how the body responds. This could lead to treatments that make susceptible people react more like those who are resistant to severe infection.

Can you tell me about the objectives of the GenOMICC study, the international initiative to fully decode the genomes of 100,000 COVID-19 patients? What is Canada’s contribution to this project?

Pinpointing the genetic determinants of COVID-19 will require sequencing the genomes of a great many patients – likely tens of thousands. There are large-scale coordinated efforts going on internationally to try to harmonize studies and get to these large sample sizes as quickly as possible. We at Queen’s are collaborating with researchers in the UK who have already sequenced genomes from about 2,500 patients there, through a research program called GenOMICC. Here at Queen’s, Dr. Michael Rauh and I have received funding from SEAMO to coordinate the Canadian arm of the GenOMICC study. We are also coordinating our efforts with a Canadian consortium that has benefited from federal funding to be used for this purpose. Canada has a key role to play because of our expertise in genomics, as well as a longstanding and internationally renowned track record of collaborative critical care research. 

Reducing barriers to medical education

The Queen’s School of Medicine is increasing efforts to recruit Black and Indigenous students.

Photo of the Queen's School of Medicine building
This change to the QuARMS pathway is part of the work that the Faculty of Health Sciences is doing to make health professions education more accessible to historically underrepresented groups.

Queen’s University is working to reduce systemic barriers to medical education by allocating 10 of its 100 seats in each class of its MD program to Black and Indigenous students, starting with the 2020-2021 undergraduate application cycle. These 10 seats will be made available through the Queen’s University Accelerated Route to Medical School (QuARMS) pathway, which was launched in 2012.

“Queen’s recognizes that Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians have been historically underrepresented in the medical profession, and that standard medical admissions practices have imposed barriers to these groups. With this new approach to the QuARMS pathway, we are hoping to reach individuals who may not have considered Queen’s or the medical profession otherwise,” says Jane Philpott, Dean, Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences. “Our faculty aims to become a leader in Canada in cultural safety, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, and anti-oppression in health professions education. There is a large body of work to be done and this is one important step toward making a Queen’s health professions education more accessible.”

The only pathway of its kind in Canada, QuARMS recruits 10 students from across Canada each year to attend the Queen’s School of Medicine on an accelerated track. These students spend two years as undergraduates at Queen’s. Then, rather than take qualifying examinations such as the MCAT, which are part of the standard admissions process, they enter the four-year MD program in the Queen’s School of Medicine, provided they meet the pre-determined entrance criteria for QuARMS students.

Previously, QuARMS had been open to all graduating high-school students. Now these seats will be reserved for Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians. These seats are in addition to the four seats in the MD program that are designated, through the standard admissions process, for Indigenous students each year.

“When QuARMS was launched, it was designed both to attract exceptional students to Queen’s and as a pathway for students who face financial, systemic or social barriers to entering medicine through the traditional medical school application process. This change to the pathway is very much in keeping with its original vision of bringing students from underrepresented groups to Queen’s,” says Hugh MacDonald, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Queen’s School of Medicine. “In order to further reduce barriers, we are also actively exploring options to provide financial support to QuARMS students.”

The QuARMS pathway enables students to use their two years as undergraduates to focus on taking a broad range of courses before they transition into medical school in their third year at Queen’s.

“QuARMS students often become a tight-knit group and there are already mentorship structures in place to facilitate a smooth transition. We believe that the pathway is well-equipped to provide the community and support that students from underrepresented groups might look for in medical school,” says Dr. MacDonald.

The current cohort of medical students helped to inform discussions that led to this decision through a report written by the Aesculapian Society, the student government for the School of Medicine.

“Our students deserve credit for raising issues regarding diversity and inclusion with the administration and advocating for change,” says Dr. MacDonald. “Our admissions committee is listening to our students and will continue to identify changes to the standard admissions process that will reduce barriers.”

This decision is one part of the ongoing work the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) has underway to reduce barriers to education. Dean Philpott has recently announced that she is forming the Dean’s Action Table on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. This table will be comprised of students, staff, and faculty from all three schools in FHS: the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, and the School of Rehabilitation Therapy. The table will develop and implement a comprehensive suite of reforms across FHS in areas such as recruitment, mentorship and support, and curriculum.

To learn more, see the QuARMS website.

 

Queen’s education professor wins prestigious NSERC Science Promotion Prize

Lynda Colgan adds national research outreach award to a list of recognition for career achievements.

Lynda Colgan
Lynda Colgane (Education) has been awarded the 2020 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) Science Promotion Award for individual achievement.

A distinguished mentor, researcher, and educator at Queen’s University has just been awarded the 2020 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) Science Promotion Award for individual achievement. The award honours people and groups that are inspirational in the way they promote science to the general public. They are an opportunity for Canada's science community to recognize, support and encourage outstanding science promoters. 

The common denominator in Lynda Colgan’s research and passion has been to dispel the myth that math and science are hard, dead subjects that only certain people can do successfully. Dr. Colgan uses intuitive approaches and strategies to help educators see mathematics through the eyes of children.  

“The math and science experience have changed drastically over the years. Today, so many things are paid for with a debit or credit card, and cashiers are told by registers what change to give back to customers, resulting in them not counting the change for customers. Part of it is that there are many things happening around them that makes children actually believe that they don’t ever have to use math.” says Dr. Colgan, professor of elementary mathematics and coordinator of the  Education Community Outreach Centre, Faculty of Education.  

To respond to this need, her approach has evolved and expanded to include outreach, and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, resulting in projects and products that search for creative avenues to engage both students, parents, and educators. 

“What I try to do is encourage everyone – family members included – to become math mentors and role models who ‘do’ math naturally and for real purposes every day, everywhere. I do this by creating and disseminating simple ‘unplugged’ STEM crafts, games and experiments to encourage, facilitate, reinforce and/or review important skills and STEM concepts on the go’ – in the car, the backyard, the park, the grocery store,” says Dr. Colgan.  

One of these initiatives is the highly successful Science Rendezvous Kingston, which is a celebration of STEM subjects and discoveries, scientists, and researchers featuring demonstrations, experiments and exhibits to bring people of all ages – toddlers to retirees – from across south-eastern Ontario into the world of science. Participation in Science Rendezvous Kingston has grown each year, as its reputation swells, from 650 to over 5,000 attendees in 2019, making it the most-attended Science Rendezvous event in Canada.  

“What we’re hoping is that we inspire a little curiosity,” says Dr. Colgan. “That we inspire that little niggle, that helps the kids to say, ‘I want to know more about that, I want to read about that, I want to do that,’ and, basically, that will grow.” Dr. Colgan, along with the other Science Rendezvous coordinator, Kim Garrett, won the STEAM BIG Award from NSERC in 2019, for outstanding contribution to a Science Rendezvous event. 

Prior to her appointment at Queen’s in 1998, Dr. Colgan was an award-winning educator with the Scarborough Board of Education for 25 years. During that time, she taught or held leadership and administrative positions at every educational level – elementary (K-6), intermediate (7-8), secondary (9-13), and post-secondary in roles centred around the integration of computer technology and mathematics. Throughout her tenure, Dr. Colgan has developed pivotal resources for the mathematics curriculum across Canada, including textbooks, research monographs and teacher and parent resource guides. 

Dr. Colgan was also awarded funding for a three-year NSERC PromoScience grant for a project called Learning with Dinosaurs: A gateway to multidisciplinary STEM learning. That project, in collaboration with Peter May and Research Casting International, seeks to revitalize educational resources about dinosaurs by disseminating museum-quality artifacts and interactive guided curriculum to provide hands-on STEM activities to improve Canadian teachers’ knowledge and student interest in the multidisciplinary field of paleontology, which includes biology, zoology, geology, chemistry and physics. 

She is also the recipient of an NSERC Promo Science Supplement Grant for Science Literacy Week. It will go to support a virtual author in residence program and is set to take place this September. 

An oasis during the pandemic

Oasis Without Walls program provides vital virtual support for seniors.

As with other public activities in Kingston and area, COVID-19 has forced many health and social programs to pivot and find new ways to deliver services. The Oasis Senior Supporting Living program, which was designed to promote healthy aging-in-place for seniors living in apartment buildings and other naturally occurring retirement communities, is no different. 

With the onset of COVID-19, the Oasis team has rapidly adapted its delivery model to maintain social connections while adhering to KFL&A Public Health’s physical distancing requirements. The new adapted program, Oasis Without Walls, continues to focus on the three Oasis pillars: socialization, nutrition, and physical activity. 

“When COVID-19 measures came in place, all Oasis programming sites were shut down for the safety of the members, and activities ended rather abruptly,” says Simone Parniak, Oasis project manager and Queen’s employee. “We quickly pivoted with the support of students and began calling each individual member in Kingston and Belleville to identify pressing needs, including lack of access to groceries and isolation and loneliness, particularly because many members could only communicate by telephone.” 

Conversations Confronting COVID-19: Aging
On Wednesday, July 22 at 11:30 am, Dr. Catherine Donnelly will join Dean Jane Philpott and other experts for Conversations Confronting COVID-19: Aging. The virtual discussion will address lessons learned about Canada’s elderly population during the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is free and open to the public. Register now.

Since 2018, Drs. Catherine Donnelly and Vince DePaul have partnered with the original Oasis members and board to spread this model to other communities in Ontario, including three apartment buildings in Kingston and one mobile home park in Quinte West. 

In early March 2020, there were approximately 170 total members at the newly-expanded sites, participating in face-to-face, group-based programs. On preliminary evaluation, compared to baseline, at six months post-implementation, fewer reported being lonely (33 vs 23 per cent), more members reported doing some physical activity (78.6 vs 83.4 per cent), and fewer reported multiple falls in the last six months (6.8 vs 18.2 per cent).  

In response to the pandemic, the Oasis program has coordinated a growing team (nine and counting) of undergrad and graduate students, and student volunteers from across Queen’s University to create and remotely deliver a variety of programs that best address the three Oasis pillars using virtual mechanisms (e.g Zoom, Skype, telephone). 

“The students have been instrumental in leading the development and delivery of Oasis Without Walls that keeps members well-connected and healthy,” says Dr. DePaul, Assistant Professor at the School of Rehabilitation Therapy. “Physical distancing has not had to mean social distancing.” 

The students began training members on Zoom and quickly compiled resources related to food, exercises and fun activities to beat boredom. They shared these with members by email or by telephone and organized weekly coffee chats for each community – an hour on Zoom each week for members to chat about current events and feel better connected to their neighbours. Student volunteers continue calling members each week to check in and make sure they are okay. 

“A lot of the feedback from members has been primarily around appreciating the check-in phone calls or emails, the zoom coffee chats and the weekly email updates,” says Carly Pappas, an occupational therapy student. “One of the calls that I think stuck out to me was when calling a member, I didn't realize her daughter was visiting and I was on speaker phone. Her daughter called out and said she really appreciated the calls and was so happy to hear that her mom is being thought of and supported. It’s the idea that these members are being thought of and that we are a resource for additional support if they were to need it.” 

In June, two physiotherapy students joined the team in a separate placement specifically exploring physical activity programming. They just launched Zoom exercise classes twice a week, exercise videos that will be shared on YouTube, and a fitness bingo to keep members active and engaged while staying safe in their own homes.  

Dr. Donnelly, Dr. DePaul and Parniak continue to develop programming for Oasis without Walls to be delivered by a dedicated group of students over the summer and into the fall. The Oasis team are in the midst of conducting a formal evaluation of the impact of the pandemic on Oasis members, and the potential of Oasis without Walls as a possible strategy suitable for scale up to other communities.    

For more information on the Oasis program, read the Queen’s Gazette story

Life-saving labels

New software developed at Queen’s University helps reduce human error in data collection and management, including for COVID-19 testing.

How many times have you struggled to interpret messy handwriting or a label on a meal deep in your freezer? It can be a frustrating occurrence.

However, when labeling challenges occur in a laboratory, the consequences can be much more severe. The concern has never been greater with the onset of COVID-19, where misidentified labels could have life-changing outcomes.

A team of researchers within the Department of Biology at Queen’s, including Drs. Robert Colautti, Virginia Walker, Stephen Lougheed and Master’s student Yihan Wu have developed a new, flexible research software program that aims to make sample management more reproducible and less prone to human error.

The program is called baRcodeR. This is how it works: Scientists who work with biological samples might record additional information including date, location, measurements, test results, and other observations. Large collaborative projects, like those tracking COVID-19, can require samples and data to be coordinated among hundreds or even thousands of scientists and students working collaboratively from around the world.

“There are a lot of computational tools in the field of ‘data science’ that allow for reproducible workflows, but these focus on data after it is collected,” says Dr. Colautti, Canada Research Chair in Rapid Evolution. “Our program applies these principles to sample labeling and management. Accurate data collection and sample management are crucial to reliable analysis.”

The development of the software came as the result of three large international research projects by the collaborators.

“All three of us (Drs. Walker, Lougheed and Colautti) were each involved in different, large international collaborative research projects, where data collection and data management were becoming a big issue," says Dr. Colautti. These projects included the Global Garlic Mustard Field SurveyTSFN, a project on sustainable fisheries in Canada’s North, and Bearwatch, a polar bear project. “When discussing these very different projects, we realized there was a common set of problems with sample collection and labeling that we couldn’t address with off-the-shelf software.”

Any error with labeling or data management can have serious consequences. For example, according to Dr. Colautti, a mere one per cent labeling error in the more than 80 million COVID-19 tests conducted worldwide could yield hundreds of thousands of misdiagnoses, including tens of thousands of infected patients erroneously cleared to return to work and regular activity. Human errors at this scale are inevitable, particularly for frontline workers who face the mental challenges that come with working long hours under difficult conditions.

The researchers hope that baRcodeR can help remedy some of these issues and, so far, the free, open-access software has been downloaded over 13,000 times and is already being used south of the border.

“baRcodeR is very much in daily use in our ongoing efforts to conduct COVID-19 research in populations of first responders, frontline health care workers, frontline city workers like bus drivers, and a population of local school children and their families” says Chris Barnes, Director of Clinical and Translational Science Informatics and Technology at the University of Florida.

The article “baRcodeR: An open-source R package for sample labeling” appeared in the June 23 issue of Methods in Ecology and Evolution. The software is available through the Comprehensive R Archine Network (CRAN) and the Colautti Lab website.

Event examines lessons around COVID-19, elderly populations, and long-term care

On July 22, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences Jane Philpott will moderate the second installment of the Conversations Confronting COVID-19 Virtual Event Series.

Discover Research at Queen's - Aging

The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened our health and communities, including some of our most vulnerable populations, such as the elderly. Canadians and global citizens have been confronted with a myriad of questions related to COVID-19, aging, and care – Have we failed or succeeded in our duty to safeguard the most vulnerable members of our society? What are the lessons learned around long-term care? How will the pandemic influence our long-term strategy for healthy aging?

On Wednesday, July 22 at 11:30 EDT, members of the Queen’s alumni and research community, will address these and other important and timely questions during a virtual discussion moderated by Jane Philpott, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, who recently worked on the front lines of the crisis.

The free, open-to-the-public event is part of the Conversations Confronting COVID-19 series, a collaboration between Advancement and University Relations, which was launched as part of the Discover Research@Queen’s campaign. The series brings Queen’s research expertise to bear on both the challenges and unique opportunities the pandemic has presented -- from how to understand and treat the virus, to how to cope with life in quarantine, and what life will look like when we surface from this international crisis.

During Wednesday’s discussion, Dr. Philpott will be joined by a number of experts within health care, research and policy-making at the local, national, and international levels. They are:

  • Ms. Laura Tamblyn Watts, Artsci’94, CEO, CanAge 
  • Dr. John Puxty, Associate Professor, Chair, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, Queen’s University; member of the Canadian Frailty Network
  • Dr. Kevin Woo, Associate Professor, School of Nursing and School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen’s University; member of the Canadian Frailty Network
  • Dr. Catherine Donnelly, Rehab’95, PhD’13, Associate Professor, School of Rehabilitation Therapy; Director, Health Services and Policy Research Institute, Queen’s University

“This dynamic discussion will shed light on what has happened within these communities, our preparedness for a crisis, and how we can move forward in support of aging Canadians,” says Dr. Philpott. “I look forward to engaging with our panelists on the important work that our researchers, students, and affiliates are doing in our efforts to understand and confront the challenges associated with the pandemic.”

The Conversations Confronting COVID-19 series is free and open to the public. To register for the event on Wednesday, July 22, please visit the Queen’s Alumni website. To learn more about research at the university, visit the Research@Queen’s website.

Joining forces for innovative technology solutions to COVID-19

Queen’s researchers are partnering with industry to transform decision-making and healthcare through two Digital Technology Supercluster projects

[Logo: Digital Technology Superclusters]

 

In response to COVID-19 many Queen’s researchers have been building on their industry partnerships to help rapidly pivot and mobilize their research to address some of the many complex problems posed by the pandemic. Many collaborations have been formed to help not only respond to immediate issues, but to also look to the future as we assess the crisis’s impact throughout society.

Digital Technology Supercluster

What is the Supercluster Initiative?
Announced in 2017 by Minister Navdeep Bains, superclusters are high-tech collaborations led by industry with academic institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and companies of all sizes working together to spur innovation and job creation around certain broad themes. Supported by a $950 million federal investment and located across Canada, five superclusters have been created to support advancements for oceans, AI, advanced manufacturing, protein industries, and digital technology. Learn more.

Two such projects that include partnerships with Queen’s, focused on predictive modelling and cancer testing and treatment, have received more than $4 million in funding through the Digital Technology Supercluster’s COVID-19 program. Part of the federal government’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative, the Digital Technology Supercluster fosters collaborations in healthcare, communications, natural resources, and transportation to support ambitious, solutions-oriented technology development projects that position Canada as a digital innovation leader. In response to COVID-19, the Supercluster developed a specific program with $60 million in funding to address digital transformation in the Canadian healthcare system. Both funded projects in which Queen’s is involved address the urgent needs to combat COVID-19, while also establishing infrastructure for future sector innovations.

Innovating the response to COVID-19

The Looking Glass: Protecting Canadians in a Return to Community project led by Kings Distributed Systems (KDS) will use predictive modelling to build a platform that will help decision-makers determine the impact that a proposed policy will have on public health and the economy. In addition to Queen’s researchers Troy Day and Felicia Magpantay (Mathematics), who will contribute leading epidemiological models, several of the project’s industry partners have participated in programs and received services from Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI). Through the formation of this project and past opportunities, QPI has supported some of the affiliated industry partners, such as Limestone Analytics, led by Queen’s professor Bahman Kashi (Economics), and the project lead, KDS, with mentorship, incubation space, and/or connections to resources, including the facilitation of a pilot project with Queen’s Centre for Advanced Computing, and receptors such as the Eastern Ontario Leadership Council and the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, industry partner aiSight through its founder Keyana Yeatman, ArtSci’20, has received support via the QPI WE-CAN Project and participated in the DDQIC QICSI program. With partners and contributors from a range of institutions and industry across Canada, this diverse collaboration will develop Looking Glass into a powerful tool to forecast not only COVID-19 infection rates from actions such as re-opening schools, but also other critical public health issues like vaccination campaigns and managing tick-borne diseases.

Project ACTT – Access to Cancer Testing & Treatment in Response to COVID-19 led by Canexia Health is focused on expanding access to minimally-invasive biopsies for patients with metastatic lung, breast, or colorectal cancer in response to surgery backlogs resulting from COVID-19. Principal Investigator for the project is Queen’s researcher Harriet Feilotter (Pathology and Molecular Medicine) and member of the Division of Cancer Biology and Genetics at Queen’s Cancer Research Institute. By testing circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) with technology that includes machine learning and AI for analysis, Project ACTT will detect fragments of cancer tumour DNA from just a patient blood sample. This project will also enable detection of a broader range of cancer types, along with targeted treatment matching, and almost double the reach of Canadian cancer patients each year. Not only is this new rapid test a less invasive method than surgical tissue biopsies, it also provides a remote delivery solution for cancer biopsies that minimizes exposure to COVID-19 in hospitals for high-risk individuals. As the project develops, they hope to make it possible to conduct these biopsies more efficiently within Canadian hospitals and labs and provide solutions for cancer testing in rural and remote areas.

"The Superclusters initiative demonstrates what we can do when we harness the collective strengths of industry, academia, and research," says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). "Queen’s is a key partner in helping to grow these companies and collaborations, in the case of the Looking Glass project in particular, and providing vital expertise that will help in our national efforts to combat COVID-19 through strength in digital technology."

For more information on these and other COVID-19 Program projects, visit the Digital Technology Supercluster website. In addition, to learn more about how Queen’s researchers are combating COVID-19, explore the Confronting COVID-19 series.

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